BRUSSELS, Belgium — French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been embarrassed by a supporter’s plan to erect a 96,000 euro statue of his wife Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
The timing of the scheme could hardly have been worse for the president’s re-election bid as he trails his Socialist rival in the opinion polls.
Making matters worse, the 8-foot bronze work will portray the supermodel-turned-first lady in worker’s attire. The statue is designed as a tribute to Italian immigrant women who once toiled in a factory making feather products in the town of Nogent-sur-Marne.
“It’s an insult to the Italian feather workers to give them the face of this super-rich person,” railed William Geib, a Socialist member of the local council. “I’ve nothing against Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, but she hardly represents the working class.”
The statue is the brainchild of Nogent-sur-Marne’s mayor Jacques Martin, a member of Sarkozy’s UMP party. He though Bruni-Sarkozy’s Italian roots and modeling credentials made her the perfect tribute to the town’s Italian community.
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“She’s France’s first lady and she’s the most Italian of all Frenchwomen,” Martin told French media. “I suggested that her face be used as a model, and she accepted.”
Media reports said Bruni-Sarkozy agreed to the modeling job but was under the impression that her name would not be linked to it. Martin has denied media reports that local authorities are paying at least half the costs of the statue, saying it’s being financed by the private developer of a new housing project where the statue will be located.
Given the furor, the unveiling of the statue has been postponed until after the presidential elections, to be held over two rounds on April 22 and May 6. That hasn’t stopped the issue becoming the target of online jokes.
“They should have put up a statue of Sarkozy, it would have been half the price as a statue of Carla,” tweeted Green Party activist Pierre Januel, in a reference to the height difference between France’s first couple.